ACC to stay at 8 conference games, require Power 5 opponent beginning in 2017

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Clemson's annual rivalry game with South Carolina will satisfy its Power 5 scheduling mandate. (Richard Shiro/AP)

Clemson's annual rivalry game with South Carolina will satisfy its Power 5 scheduling requirement.

The ACC will continue to play eight conference games but will require at least one contest against a school from one of the other Power 5 conferences or Notre Dame, commissioner John Swofford announced Monday at the league's spring meetings.

Notre Dame and the ACC already have a scheduling agreement in place, with the Irish slated to play four league opponents in 2014, six in 2015 and five in subsequent years. Under the new plan, ACC  schools would need to play a member of the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 or SEC in years they are not scheduled to face the Irish once the requirement goes into effect in 2017. Another way for ACC schools to meet the requirement would be to schedule other ACC schools as non-conference opponents.

The new mandate would not impact Clemson, Florida State or Georgia Tech, all of which already face SEC opponents in rivalry games each season. Swofford did not disclose whether independents such as BYU and Army would count to fulfill the scheduling requirement. ACC schools will be allowed to schedule FCS opponents in their other non-conference games.

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The recommendation mirrors the SEC’s scheduling plan, which is set to take hold in 2016. The Big Ten currently plays eight games but will shift to a nine-game schedule in 2016, while the Pac 12 and Big 12 already play nine games.

League schedules have been a hot topic in recent months as the major conferences try to decide on the model that will most benefit their teams in the new College Football Playoff. Strength of schedule, a key factor in the eight- versus nine-game debate, is among the criteria the playoff selection committee will use to compile its rankings.

The possibility of schedule imbalance is another concern. Teams could be more or less likely to "miss" certain conference opponents in a given season based on the number of games on their schedules.

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